By Jessie Meyers Moore ’10
Kerrie Gallo ’98 always knew she would end up in the sciences. Intent on becoming a doctor as a William Smith student, she reached a critical turning point on her medical path during a field semester in Hawaii.
While studying reef ecology, geology and cultural ecology on the Big Island, Molokai’i and Kauai’i, Gallo had her “watershed moment:” medicine just wasn’t her niche. She switched her focus of study and graduated with a degree in environmental studies.
When an opportunity for the Buffalo native to return to her Western New York roots presented itself, she happily accepted a position with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting water quality and quantity. There, she works as the director of ecological programs, managing projects to restore and protect the Buffalo and Niagara River watersheds.
“The water carries the remnants of Buffalo’s legacy,” she explains, citing Buffalo’s heavy industrialization in the early twentieth century that filled the watershed with toxins and pollutants. But now that’s all changing “from a Rust to Blue Economy,” thanks to investments in green infrastructure, prioritization of natural resource restoration and new sustainable industries entering the community—and of course, Riverkeeper’s efforts to revitalize and protect the watershed.
Now, Gallo says, fisheries are thriving, spawning is returning in places once thought to be dead, and a monumental dredging and restoration project has been initiated along the Buffalo River to remediate industrial pollution.
“I never really thought that change along the Buffalo River waterfront would happen in my lifetime,” she reflects. “But it’s happening. There’s a direct connection between economic revitalization and restoring the health and integrity of the water. We’re getting the toxic stuff out to bring back the good things.”